At last month's Labour Party conference, Gordon Brown took away trade unions' (and local Labour Parties') right to submit resolutions to future conferences. Or rather, the unions gave away their rights - voting for Brown's proposal to gag themselves!
Union resolutions in recent years have been passed by Labour conference, criticising the Party leadership over issues including council housing, privatisation and trade union rights. But rather than build on those successes with a renewed fight for Labour to turn back towards socialist policies and genuine support for working-class issues, the unions vote to give up their right to submit anything at all!
What about the rail unions? RMT was chucked out of the Labour Party for backing socialist candidates against Labour, so didn't have a delegation at conference. ASLEF apparently couldn't get into the conference hall because their chairs had been taken away to make room for press photographers (you couldn't make this stuff up!). And TSSA? They voted for the no-resolutions proposal. For some years, many Tube workers have reckoned that TSSA stands for Too Scared for Strike Action; now we should perhaps rename them Too Scared to Submit Anything.
It's hard to believe that trade unions could so willingly chuck in their own right to a voice. It is as though they have accepted that the working class has no right to a voice in politics.
Here at Tubeworker, we think that the key issue in politics is that working-class people need a political voice as a class. Choosing between parties who serve our employers is just not good enough. Over a hundred years ago, socialist trade unionists rejected the non-choice between the Liberals and the Tories and set up the Labour Party to provide a direct voice for workers in politics. Now we need to reassert that idea.
The decision to remove unions' right to submit resolutions to Labour Party conference is due to be reviewed in two years time. ASLEF and TSSA members should demand that their unions fight to restore their democratic voice. But we should fight outside the Labour Party too - and in particular, should rally round the moves in RMT to stand a slate of candidates in next year's Greater London Authority election.